Collectivism is a cultural value that is characterized by emphasis on cohesiveness among individuals and prioritization of the group over self. Individuals or groups that subscribe to a collectivist worldview tend to find common values and goals as particularly salient[1] and demonstrate greater orientation toward in-group than toward out-group.[2] The term “in-group” is thought to be more diffusely defined for collectivistic individuals to include societal units ranging from the nuclear family to a religious or racial/ethnic group.[3][4] Meta-analytic findings support that collectivism shows a consistent association with discrete values, interpersonal patterns of interaction, cognition, perception and self-construal.[5] While collectivism is often defined in contrast to individualism, the notion that collectivism-individualism is unidimensional has been challenged by contemporary theorists.

Origins and historical perspectives

The German sociologist Tönnies described an early model of collectivism and individualism using the terms Gemeinschaft (community) and Gesellschaft (society).[6] Gemeinschaft relationships, in which communalism is prioritized, were thought to be characteristic of small, rural village communities. An anthropologist, Redfield (1941) echoed this notion in work contrasting folk society with urban society.[7]

Max Weber (1930) contrasted collectivism and individualism through the lens of religion, believing that Protestants were more individualistic and self-reliant compared to Catholics, who endorsed hierarchical, interdependent relationships among people.[8]

Hofstede (1980) was highly influential in ushering in an era of cross-cultural research making comparisons along the dimension of collectivism versus individualism. Hofstede conceptualized collectivism and individualism as part of a single continuum, with each cultural construct representing an opposite pole. The author characterized individuals that endorsed a high degree of collectivism as being embedded in their social contexts and prioritizing communal goals over individual goals.[9]


Collectivism was an important part of Marxist–Leninist ideology in the Soviet Union, where it played a key part in forming the New Soviet man, willingly sacrificing his or her life for the good of the collective. Terms such as "collective" and "the masses" were frequently used in the official language and praised in agitprop literature, for example by Vladimir Mayakovsky (Who needs a "1") and Bertolt Brecht (The Decision, Man Equals Man).[10][11]

Terminology and measurement

The construct of collectivism is represented in empirical literature under several different names. Most commonly, the term interdependent self-construal is used.[12] Other phrases used to describe the concept of collectivism-individualism include allocentrism-idiocentrism,[13] collective-private self,[14] as well as subtypes of collectivism-individualism (meaning, vertical and horizontal subtypes).[15] Inconsistent terminology is thought to account for some of the difficulty in effectively synthesizing the empirical literature on collectivism.[16]

Typically, collectivism is measured via self-report questionnaire. Meta-analytic findings suggest that there are six instruments that have been used to measure collectivism (and the related construct of individualism) in a manner that best reflects current theoretical thinking.[16]

  • Gudykunst and colleagues[17] developed a 28-item measurement tool that rates items on a scale from 1-7. Interdependent and independent self-construal subscales are produced. Sample items from the interdependent subscale include, "I maintain harmony in the groups of which I am a member" and "I will sacrifice my self-interest for the benefit of the group."
  • Kim and Leung developed the Revised Self-Construal Scale,[18] which is a 28-item measure that produces Interdependent and independent self-construal subscales. Sample items from the interdependent subscale include, "I feel uncomfortable disagreeing with my group" and "My relationships with others in my group are more important than my personal accomplishments."
  • Oyserman[2] developed a measure containing 18 items rated on a five-point Likert scale which produces collectivism and individualism subscales. An example item from the collectivism subscale include "In order to really understand who I am, you must see me with members of my group."
  • Singelis developed the 24-item Self-Construal Scale,[19] which rates items on a scale from 1-7. Items from the interdependent subscale include, "My happiness depends on the happiness of those around me" and "If my brother or sister fails, I feel responsible."
  • Takata[20] developed a 20-item measure that was originally published in Japanese. It contains a collectivism and an individualism subscale.
  • Triandis[21] developed a 12-item measure that produces collectivism and individualism subscales. The person completing the question is asked "Are you a person who is likely to..." and then asked to rate a number of scenarios. Examples of scenarios that if endorsed would indicate greater adherence to collectivism include "Stay with friends, rather than at a hotel, when you go to another town (even if you have plenty of money)."

Theoretical models

In one critical model of collectivism, Markus and Kitayama[22] describe the interdependent (i.e., collectivistic) self as fundamentally connected to the social context. As such, one's sense of self depends on and is defined in part by those around them and is primarily manifested in public, overt behavior. As such, the organization of the self is guided by using others as a reference. That is, an interdependent individual uses the unexpressed thoughts, feelings, and beliefs of another person with whom they have a relationship with, as well as the other person's behaviors, to make decisions about their own internal attributes and actions.

Markus and Kitayama also contributed to the literature by challenging Hofstede's unidimensional model of collectivism-individualism.[22] The authors conceptualized these two constructs bidimensionally, such that both collectivism and individualism can be endorsed independently and potentially to the same degree. This notion has been echoed by other prominent theorists in the field.[2][19][21]

Some researchers have expanded the collectivism-individualism framework to include a more comprehensive view. Specifically, Triandis and colleagues introduced a theoretical model in which incorporates the notion of relational contexts.[4][23] The authors argues that the domains of collectivism and individualism can be further described by horizontal and vertical relationships. Horizontal relationships are believed to be status-equal whereas vertical relationships are characterized as hierarchical and status-unequal. As such, horizontal collectivism is manifested as an orientation in which group harmony is highly valued and in-group members are perceived to experience equal standing. Vertical collectivism involves the prioritization of group goals over individual goals, implying a hierarchical positioning of the self in relation to the overarching in-group. The horizontal-vertical individualism-collectivism model has received empirical support and has been used to explore patterns within cultures.[24][25]

Originated by W. E. B. DuBois,[26] some researchers have adopted a historical perspective on the emergence of collectivism among some cultural groups. DuBois and others argued that oppressed minority groups contend with internal division, meaning that the development of self-identity for individuals from these groups involves the integration of one's own perceptions of their group as well as typically negative, societal views of their group.[27] This division is thought to impact goal formation such that people from marginalized groups tend to emphasize collectivistic over individualistic values.[28][29][30][31]

Some organizational research has found different variations of collectivism. These include institutional collectivism and in-group collectivism. Institutional collectivism is the idea that a work environment creates a sense of collectivist nature due to similar statuses and similar rewards, such as earning the same salary. In-group collectivism is the idea that an individual's chosen group of people, such as family or friend groups, create a sense of collectivist nature.[32] In-group collectivism can be referred to as family collectivism.[33]


A number of classic studies have demonstrated that there is a relationship between collectivism and cognition. These studies support the notion that people from collectivistic cultures tend to demonstrate a holistic cognitive style, which is reflected in processes such as memory, visual perception, attributional style, and categorization schemas. This effect has been replicated extensively by independent research groups, supporting its robustness.

  • Memory: Masuda and Nisbett[34] showed that Japanese students, who were presumed to hold greater collectivistic views, demonstrated greater attention to the context in which a visual stimulus was embedded and resultantly, exhibited more holistic memory compared to North American students.
  • Visual perception: During a “rod and frame” test, in which a person is asked to determine the angle of a rod in relation to a frame, East Asian participants were more likely be “field dependent” than Americans, meaning that they were more biased by the orientation of the frame.[35][36] Again, these findings suggest that people from more collectivistic cultures tend to be more context dependent in their perception than people from more individualistic cultures.
  • Attributional style: Participants were shown a picture of a group of fish and asked to rate the reasons they believed one fish was swimming in front of the group. Chinese participants were more likely to endorse external forces (for example, “the fish is being chased”) compared to Americans, who endorsed more internal forces (for example, “the fish is a leader”).[37]
  • Categorization schemas: Collectivism has been shown to influence how people sort and group. Individuals who are more collectivistic tend to think about the relationship of objects and sort on that basis rather than by shared properties.[38][39][40] For example, when Chinese children were asked to indicate which two objects were alike from a cow, chicken, and a patch of grass, most selected the cow and the grass. When probed about the reasons for this grouping, it was explained that cows eat grass.[38]

Development of self-concept

An individual's self-concept can be fundamentally shaped by cultural values. Such processes typically begin in childhood and adolescence and parents are often one of the first critical inputs that shape a child's sense of self-concept.[41] Parents with more collectivistic world views have been shown to speak and interact with their children in a manner that conveys the core tenets of collectivism, such as emphasis on the relationships between objects and interpersonal connections. As such, youth who are parented in this manner tend to develop a sense of self that is defined in relation to others.[42] This sense of self also has been found to be reflected in patterns of structural and functional connectivity in the brain. For example, generally the medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC) is more active when adults think about themselves compared to when they think about someone else. However, for adults who endorse collectivism, the MPFC actually shows greater response when they think about themselves in the context of their close relationships.[43]

Macro-level effects

Cultural views are believed to have a reciprocal relationship with macro-level processes such as economics, social change, and politics.[44][45] Societal changes in China exemplifies this well. Beginning in the early 1980s, China experienced dramatic expansion of economic and social structures, resulting in greater income inequality between families, less involvement of the government in social welfare programs, and increased competition for employment.[46] Corresponding with these changes was a shift in ideology among Chinese citizens, especially among those who were younger, away from collectivism (the prevailing cultural ideology) toward individualism.[47][48] China also saw this shift reflected in educational policies, such that teachers were encouraged to promote the development of their students’ individual opinions and self-efficacy, which prior to the aforementioned economic changes, was not emphasized in Chinese culture.[49][50]

Attempts to study the association of collectivism and political views and behaviors has largely occurred at the aggregate national level. However, more isolated political movements have also adopted a collectivistic framework. For example, Collectivist anarchism (also known as anarcho-collectivism) is a revolutionary[51] anarchist doctrine that advocates the abolition of both the state and private ownership of the means of production. It instead envisions the means of production being owned collectively and controlled and managed by the producers themselves.[51]

See also


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Anarchism is an anti-authoritarian political philosophy that advocates self-governed societies based on voluntary, cooperative institutions and the rejection of hierarchies those societies view as unjust. These institutions are often described as stateless societies, although several authors have defined them more specifically as distinct institutions based on non-hierarchical or free associations. Anarchism holds the state to be undesirable, unnecessary and harmful.Anarchism is often considered a far-left ideology and much of its economics and legal philosophy reflect anti-authoritarian interpretations of communism, collectivism, syndicalism, mutualism, or participatory economics. As anarchism does not offer a fixed body of doctrine from a single particular worldview, many anarchist types and traditions exist and varieties of anarchy diverge widely. Anarchist schools of thought can differ fundamentally, supporting anything from extreme individualism to complete collectivism. Strains of anarchism have often been divided into the categories of social and individualist anarchism, or similar dual classifications.


Anti-individualism (also known as content externalism) is an approach to various areas of thought (both analytic and continental) including philosophy, the philosophy of psychology, French historical studies, literature, phenomenology and linguistics.

The proponents arguing for anti-individualism in these areas have in common the view that what seems to be internal to the individual is to some degree dependent on the social environment, thus self-knowledge, intentions, reasoning and moral value may variously be seen as being determined by factors outside the person. The position has been supported by Sanford Goldberg and by other thinkers such as Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Hilary Putnam and Tyler Burge.

Authoritarian personality

Authoritarian personality is a state of mind or attitude characterized by belief in absolute obedience or submission to someone else’s authority, as well as the administration of that belief through the oppression of one's subordinates. It usually applies to individuals who are known or viewed as having an authoritarian, strict, or oppressive personality towards subordinates.


Bengalis (বাঙালি [baŋgali]), also rendered as the Bengali people, Bangalis and Bangalees, are an Indo-Aryan ethnic group native to the Bengal region in South Asia, specifically in the eastern part of the Indian subcontinent, presently divided between Bangladesh and the Indian states of West Bengal, Tripura, Assam's Barak Valley, who speak Bengali, a language from the Indo-Aryan language family. The term "Bangalee" is also used to denote people of Bangladesh as a nation.Bengalis are the third largest ethnic group in the world, after Han Chinese and Arabs. Apart from Bangladesh and the Indian states of West Bengal, Tripura, Assam's Barak Valley, Bengali-majority populations also reside in India's union territory of Andaman and Nicobar Islands as well as Bangladesh's Chittagong Hill Tracts (which was originally not a part of Bengal), with significant populations in Arunachal Pradesh, Delhi, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Uttarakhand. The global Bengali diaspora (Bangladeshi diaspora and Indian Bengalis) have well-established communities in Pakistan, the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, the Middle East, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, and Italy.

They have four major religious subgroups: Bengali Muslims, Bengali Hindus, Bengali Christians, and Bengali Buddhists.

Bureaucratic collectivism

Bureaucratic collectivism is a theory of class society. It is used by some Trotskyists to describe the nature of the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin, and other similar states in Central and Eastern Europe and elsewhere (such as North Korea).

Collective farming

Collective farming and communal farming are various types of "agricultural production in which multiple farmers run their holdings as a joint enterprise". That type of collective is often an agricultural cooperative in which member-owners jointly engage in farming activities. The process by which farmland is aggregated is called collectivization. In some countries (including the Soviet Union, the Eastern Bloc countries, China and Vietnam), there have been state-run and cooperative-run variants. For example, the Soviet Union had both kolkhozy (cooperative-run type) and sovkhozy (state-run type), often denoted in English as collective farms and state farms, respectively.

Collective leadership

Collective leadership is a distribution of power within an organisational structure. It is considered an ideal form of ruling a communist party, both within and outside a socialist state.

Collectivist anarchism

Collectivist anarchism (also known as anarcho-collectivism) is a revolutionary anarchist doctrine that advocates the abolition of both the state and private ownership of the means of production as it instead envisions the means of production being owned collectively and controlled and managed by the producers themselves.

For the collectivization of the means of production, it was originally envisaged that workers will revolt and forcibly collectivize the means of production. Once collectivization takes place, money would be abolished to be replaced with labour notes and workers' salaries would be determined in democratic organizations of voluntary membership based on job difficulty and the amount of time they contributed to production. These salaries would be used to purchase goods in a communal market. This contrasts with anarcho-communism, where wages would be abolished and where individuals would take freely from a storehouse of goods "to each according to his need". Notwithstanding the title, Mikhail Bakunin's collectivist anarchism is seen as a blend of individualism and collectivism.Collectivist anarchism is most commonly associated with Bakunin, the anti-authoritarian sections of the International Workingmen's Association and the early Spanish anarchist movement.


Communitarianism is a philosophy that emphasizes the connection between the individual and the community. Its overriding philosophy is based upon the belief that a person's social identity and personality are largely molded by community relationships, with a smaller degree of development being placed on individualism. Although the community might be a family, communitarianism usually is understood, in the wider, philosophical sense, as a collection of interactions, among a community of people in a given place (geographical location), or among a community who share an interest or who share a history. Communitarianism usually opposes extreme individualism and disagrees with extreme laissez-faire policies that neglect the stability of the overall community.

Cultural psychology

Cultural psychology is the study of how cultures reflect and shape the psychological processes of their members.The main tenet of cultural psychology is that mind and culture are inseparable and mutually constitutive, meaning that people are shaped by their culture and their culture is also shaped by them. As Richard Shweder, one of the major proponents of the field, writes, "Cultural psychology is the study of the way cultural traditions and social practices regulate, express, and transform the human psyche, resulting less in psychic unity for humankind than in ethnic divergences in mind, self, and emotion."

Economy of the Soviet Union

The economy of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (Russian: экономика Советского Союза) was based on a system of state ownership of the means of production, collective farming, industrial manufacturing and centralized administrative planning. The economy was characterised by state control of investment, public ownership of industrial assets, macroeconomic stability, negligible unemployment and high job security.Beginning in 1928, the course of the Soviet Union's economy was guided by a series of five-year plans. By the 1950s, the Soviet Union had rapidly evolved from a mainly agrarian society into a major industrial power. Its transformative capacity—what the White House National Security Council of the United States described as a "proven ability to carry backward countries speedily through the crisis of modernization and industrialization"—meant communism consistently appealed to the intellectuals of developing countries in Asia. Impressive growth rates during the first three five-year plans (1928–1940) are particularly notable given that this period is nearly congruent with the Great Depression. During this period, the Soviet Union saw rapid industrial growth while other regions were suffering from crisis. Nevertheless, the impoverished base upon which the five-year plans sought to build meant that at the commencement of Operation Barbarossa the country was still poor.A major strength of the Soviet economy was its enormous supply of oil and gas, which became much more valuable as exports after the world price of oil skyrocketed in the 1970s. As Daniel Yergin notes, the Soviet economy in its final decades was "heavily dependent on vast natural resources–oil and gas in particular". World oil prices collapsed in 1986, putting heavy pressure on the economy. After Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in 1985, he began a process of economic liberalization by dismantling the command economy and moving towards a mixed economy. At its dissolution at the end of 1991, the Soviet Union begat a Russian Federation with a growing pile of $66 billion in external debt and with barely a few billion dollars in net gold and foreign exchange reserves.The complex demands of the modern economy somewhat constrained the central planners. Corruption and data fiddling became common practice among the bureaucracy by reporting fulfilled targets and quotas, thus entrenching the crisis. From the Stalin-era to the early Brezhnev-era, the Soviet economy grew much slower than Japan and slightly faster than the United States. GDP levels in 1950 (in billion 1990 dollars) were 510 (100%) in the Soviet Union, 161 (100%) in Japan and 1,456 (100%) in the United States. By 1965, the corresponding values were 1,011 (198%), 587 (365%) and 2,607 (179%). The Soviet Union maintained itself as the second largest economy in both nominal and purchasing power parity values for much of the Cold War until 1988, when Japan's economy exceeded $3 trillion in nominal value.The Soviet Union's relatively small consumer sector accounted for just under 60% of the country's GDP in 1990 while the industrial and agricultural sectors contributed 22% and 20% respectively in 1991. Agriculture was the predominant occupation in the Soviet Union before the massive industrialization under Joseph Stalin. The service sector was of low importance in the Soviet Union, with the majority of the labor force employed in the industrial sector. The labor force totaled 152.3 million people. Major industrial products included petroleum, steel, motor vehicles, aerospace, telecommunications, chemicals, electronics, food processing, lumber, mining, and defense industry. Though its GDP crossed $1 trillion in the 1970s and $2 trillion in the 1980s, the effects of central planning were progressively distorted due to the rapid growth of the second economy in the Soviet Union.

Emmanuel Goldstein

Emmanuel Goldstein is a fictional character in George Orwell's dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. He is the principal enemy of the state according to the Party of the totalitarian Oceania. He is depicted as the head of a mysterious (and possibly fictitious) dissident organization called "The Brotherhood" and as having written the book The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism. He is only seen and heard on telescreen, and he may be a fabrication of the Ministry of Truth, the State's propaganda department.

High-context and low-context cultures

In anthropology, high-context culture and low-context culture is a measure of how explicit the messages exchanged in a culture are, and how important the context is in communication. High and low context cultures fall on a continuum that describes how a person communicates with others through their range of communication abilities: utilizing gestures, relations, body language, verbal messages, or non-verbal messages. These concepts were first introduced by the anthropologist Edward T. Hall in his 1976 book Beyond Culture. According to Hall, in a low-context culture, the message will be interpreted through just the words (whether written or spoken) and their explicit meaning. In a high-context culture, messages are also interpreted using tone of voice, gesture, silence or implied meaning, as well as context or situation. There, the receiver is expected to use the situation, messages and cultural norms to understand the message.

High context cultures often stem from less direct verbal and nonverbal communication, utilizing small communication gestures and reading into these less direct messages with more meaning. Low context cultures are the opposite; direct verbal communication is needed to properly understand a message being said and doing so relies heavily on explicit verbal skills."High" and "low" context cultures are typically defined by language group, nationality, or regional community. However, they have also been applied to corporations, professions and other cultural groups, as well as settings such as online and offline communication.

Humanist Party (Iceland)

The Humanist Party (Icelandic: Húmanistaflokkurinn) is a political party in Iceland founded on 25 June 1984. It has run candidates in the 1987 and 1999 parliamentary elections, but has never achieved representation. It is related to the International Humanist Party.

They successfully applied for the list letter H to contest the 2013 Icelandic parliamentary election, and subsequently submitted an official candidate list on 12 April 2013. In the 2013 election they chose to only run candidates in the Reykjavik North and Reykjavik South constituencies.

Mutual aid (organization theory)

In organization theory, mutual aid is a voluntary reciprocal exchange of resources and services for mutual benefit. Mutual aid, as opposed to charity, does not connote moral superiority of the giver over the receiver.

The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism

The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism, credited to the character Emmanuel Goldstein, is the fictional book that is used as a thematic and plot element in Part 2, Chapter 9 of the dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984), by George Orwell. According to Orwell's plot, in the totalitarian society of Oceania—ruled by the seemingly omnipotent, omniscient Party—Emmanuel Goldstein (in the Party's propaganda) is the principal enemy of the state: a former member of the Inner Party continually conspiring against the leadership of Big Brother. Early in the story, the protagonist thinks to himself: "There were ... whispered stories of a terrible book, a compendium of all the heresies, of which Goldstein was the author and which circulated clandestinely here and there. It was a book without a title. People referred to it, if at all, simply as The Book".

Völkisch movement

The völkisch movement (German: völkische Bewegung, "folkish movement") was the German interpretation of a populist movement, with a romantic focus on folklore and the "organic", i.e.: a "naturally grown community in unity", characterised by the one-body-metaphor (Volkskörper) for the entire population during a period from the late 19th century up until the Nazi era.


Xeer (pronounced /ħeːr/) is the traditional legal system of Somalia, and one of the three systems from which formal Somali law draws its inspiration, the others being civil law and Islamic law. It is believed to pre-date Islam, although it was influenced by Islam and retains many of the faith's conservative elements. Under this system, elders, known as the xeer begti serve as mediator judges and help settle court cases, taking precedent and custom into account. Xeer is polycentric in that different groups within Somali society have different interpretations of xeer.

Social theories
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Group pressures
Conforming oneself

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